By Oyediji Oluwaseun Babatunde
Sports Writer, kick442.com Nigeria
The Nigeria sports mouthpiece, NSM is a leading sports online platform, renowned for it’s many successes in sports journalism, sports promotion and sports branding.
As part of its corporate responsibility of always informing the public about the latest sports news making the rounds, the platform also have the duty of identifying deserving sports men and women who have invested their money into promoting sports in no small measures.
It’s against this background that NSM have also identified those who have excelled in their chosen fields as outstanding personalities worthy of recognition and acceptance.
On this auspicious occasion of Nigeria 60th anniversary celebration, it have carefully nominated the following individuals for consideration for national awards.
These individuals were selected from a poll conducted on the NSM website. After the poll which had over 22,000 Nigerians participating, the following ten sports icons emerged as Nigeria’s most outstanding sports personalities deserving of national recognition.
1. MR KUNLE SONAME.
Kunle Soname is a Nigerian politician, entrepreneur, sport enthusiast and the chairman of Bet9ja, a betting website he founded in 2013.
He is also the first Nigerian to acquire a European club C.D. Feirense of Portugal a club he bought in 2015.
Over time, Bet9ja has been one of the hottest online gambling innovations in Nigeria.
Bet9ja has become an household name in Nigeria and a leading brand in the Nigerian sport betting(gambling) industry.
In 2017, Bet9ja signed a 200 Million Naira sponsorship agreement with Nigeria National football league NNL, which is the second tire league of Nigeria football.
They also sponsored other major sporting events like the annual Remo Marathon, the Bet9ja table tennis championship, the basketball championship, the ogun youth league among others.
The chairman and owner of Bet9ja, is also the founder and owner of Remo stars football club of Ogun State, a club that is currently in the Nigeria National league.
For all his efforts, Mr Kunle Soname, deserves to be appreciated for his selfless service to humanity as he is one of the biggest employers of labour in the South West with over 500 workers presently working and receiving salary on a monthly basis under his watch, this ICON OF OUR TIME deserves to be celebrated for his service to humanity.
2. SENATOR PATRICK IFEANYI UBAH
Senator Dr Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah has done so well in just a short time, to stand out as one of Nigeria’s top sports administrators deseving of National recognition. The president of FC Ifeanyi Ubah came into the scene in late 2012 when he was first appointed youth football ambassador by the then NFF president Aminu Maigari.
Since then, Senator Ubah has gone on to become the president of NPFL side, FC Ifeanyi Ubah, a club that has won the federation cup and represented Nigeria in the CAF Confederation cup.
Senator Ubah is an icon of the game and a respected football administrator around the world.
The multi billion naira FC Ifeanyi Ubah stadium is the biggest and the best privately owned stadia in Nigeria presently and it is on record that this facility hosted a CAF Confederation cup match a few years back.
Senator Ubah remains the first club owner to pay a Nigerian footballer 2m naira monthly, a feat that is still being celebrated in the Nigeria professional football league till date.
A member of CAF AFCON organising committee, senator Ubah seats amongst the very best brains in the Confederation of African and has continued to contribute his quota to moving the continental football body forward
The one Football, One family initiative, which was conceptualized by Senator Ubah to identify a footballer from every home in Nigeria and give him or her a ball and a pair of football boot, is still in the pipeline, while the deal between FC Ifeanyi Ubah and West Ham United remains the first major partnership deal involving a Nigerian Clubside and an EPL team.
For these achievements, Nigerians have nominated Senator Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, for National recognition and award.
3. AMAJU MELVIN PINNICK
Nigeria football federation president, Amaju Melvin Pinnick has done so well for himself in just a shortwhile, to stand out as one of the icons of Africa and world football. His elevation to the exalted seat of CAF 1st Vice president, after championing Ahmad Ahmad emergence as CAF president, cannot go unnoticed.
He has also played a key role in helping to position over 10 Nigerians in top positions in CAF and FIFA and remains the only Nigerian in history to serve as match commissioner at the FIFA world cup.
Under his watch, Nigeria qualified for the 2018 world cup in Russia and won bronze at the 2019 Nations Cup in Egypt.
For these reasons, Nigerians believe he deserves a National award for his contributions to Nigeria football development.
4. BUKOLA OLOPADE
This former commissioner for Sports in Ogun state will be remembered for hosting what has been adjudged the best National sports festival ever staged in the history of Nigeria.
He has since outgrown that sterling achievement to announce his himself as a key promoter of long distance races in Nigeria and Africa. In the last five years, the Lagos Marathon sponsored by Access Bank has continued to attract international commendation even as he has moved a step further with the Remo Marathon, the Ogun state Marathon, the Abuja Marathon and now the Kaduna Marathon holding in November 2020.
For these reasons, 85 percent of the voters nominated Mr Bukola Olopade CEO of Nilayo sports marketing agency, for National recognition and award.
5. RAFIU LADIPO
The president General of Nigeria football and other sports supporters club, Rafiu Ladipo stands out as Nigeria’s number one sport supporter still alive and deserves full recognition for his immense contribution to Nigeria sport. Ladipo has been at the forefront of football supportership for more than five decades and was among the founding fathers of the supporters club in Nigeria.
He started by spending his personal money in promoting and supporting the Nigeria brand and has remained ever consistent till date.
At the US 94 world cup, the Supporters club got FIFA’S recognition as they were voted the best supporters group at the global football Fiesta. Ladipo has continued to stand out as a leader in the face of the proliferation that has seen the emergence of three other supporters group.
For these reasons, Nigerians have unanimously voted him as one of the ICONS of our sports in the last 60years.
6. FELIX AYANSI AGWU
For winning back to back CAF champions league, Enyimba FC of Aba, amiable chairman, Felix Ayansi Agwu deserves to be identified amongst the top 10 icons of Nigeria sports in the last 60 years. That feat by Enyimba will remain indelible in the hearts of Nigeria football fans who sees the NFF executive commitee member as one of the best club chairman that ever came out of this continent.
He has gone on to lead the Aba elephants to more successes in the NPFL and has further strengthened the brand called Enyimba football club of Aba
This intelligent, calm and collected achiever has helped himself to this list purely on merit.
7. HON. NDUKA IRABOR.
Appointed as first chairman of the League Management Company, LMC by Alhaji Aminu Maigari, Honourable Nduka Irabor made the Nigeria professional football league a big brand that instantly attracted sponsors like multichoice, owners of Super sports.
The Super Sports deal sustained the league and brought smiles to the faces of club owners, managers and players.
His administrative brilliance was second to none and he did his utmost in placing Nigeria league among the top 5 leagues on the continent.
For that reason, voters gave him 84% thumbs up.
8 PROF. YAHAYA UKWUENYA
Cricket is not as popular as football but under the leadership of Prof Ukwenya, Nigeria qualified for her first ICC World Cup in South Africa and the Nigerian U19 team also qualified and took part at the 2020 ICC U19 World Cup in South Africa.
It wasn’t a good World Cup debut, but Nigeria defeated Japan to finish 15 out of the 16 participating countries.
For the first time, the Nigeria women cricket national team also took part in the African cricket tournament.
Prof Ukwenya has been monitoring and ensuring that cricket facilities are in top shape now that Federal Government and Ministry have lifted ban on non contact sport.
Players have commenced training across the states in preparation for the next continental tournament.
These giant strides made over 75 percent of the voters nominate professor Yahaya Ukwuenya as one of the icons of Nigeria sports at 60.
9. ENGINEER MUSA KIDA.
In four years, engineer Musa Kida has achieved more than his predecessor Tijani Umar did within thesame period. Umar led D’Tigers to the Afro Basketball championship while Kida led the D’Tigress to achieve thesame feat.
Kida also qualified Nigeria male and female Basketball teams to the 2021 Olympic games in Tokyo and it is on record that under this board, a Nigerian Basketballer Ifeanyi Festus Ezeli helped the Golden state warriors to win the NBA championship, a feat that was celebrated by his national team mates back home.
Under his watch, the Nigeria male and female Basketball leagues also got corporate sponsorships.
Kida has continued to achieve without making much noise no wonder he got 82 percent of the votes to make our list of top 10 sports icons in the last 60years.
10. DANIEL IGALI
Wrestling is indeed a force to be reckoned with because of the dedication and commitment of Mr Daniel Igali who saw the need and took the lead.
The 2018 African Wrestling Championship brought glamour to our dear country Nigeria as the city of Portharcourt was the focal point of the event that hosted 11 countries.
Nigeria paraded the very best as they came out tops in the men and women’s freestyle dominating the North Africans who were tipped before the event to come out tops.
The likes of Amas Daniel, Ebikewenimo Welson, Ogbonna John,Ekerekeme Agiomor, Odunnayo Adekuroye, Aminat Adeniyi, Blessing Oborodudu, Mercy Genesis finished at the podium to lift the green white green high.
Fast forward to the common wealth games Nigeria finished second in the world with 3 gold, 2 Silver and 3 Bronze.
Wrestling came with full force at the 2019 games with Nigeria topping the medal chart for the 7th time in a row with a total of 12 medals, 7 gold, 4 silver and one bronze medal.
Then to the World Championships (in Kazakhstan) last year, where Odunayo Adekuoroye (57kg) qualified for the Olympics by winning a bronze medal.
It might interest us to know that Blessing Oborududu (68kg) is No. 4 and Adekuoroye Odunayo (57kg) is No. 2 in the world.
The Vice President of the Commonwealth Wrestling board is indeed a role model, a man who represented Canada in 2000, won Gold and later decided to serve is fatherland should be given some accolades.
He got 87% of the votes to join the NSM list of outstanding icons
It should be noted that www.kick442.com have an input in the nomination process of these sports administrators as NSM beckon on the Ministry and Presidency to honour them for their efforts.
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